Food Security And Agriculture
“Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop their physical and mental faculties.” – proclaimed by the government officials attending the World Food Conference held in Rome, 1974 by the United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). This conference was held in the wake of devastating famine in Bangladesh in the preceding two years. Though it was a bold statement but no way it was fulfilled rather it gathered much attention around the world, fuelled debate as it was first time when the term “Food Security” has been coined.
According to the FAO report, almost 870 million was chronically undernourished in the years 2010-2012, i.e., 12.5% of the global population. Situation is much graver in developing countries as almost 15% of the population is chronically undernourished.
India is still struggling with the widespread poverty and hunger despite good economic growth in recent years as 300 million people accounts for India’s poor population. But poverty is on the decline according to the statistics of Government of India, poverty declined from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 29.8% in 2009-10. Food production depends upon various factors like land ownership and use, soil management, crop selection, breeding and management; livestock breeding and management; and harvesting. Urbanisation, soil erosion, desertification, salinization have negative effects on land used for agriculture. Crop production is among the important criteria for India to achieve food security which is quite unlike the case of Japan and Singapore. Food distribution is another important aspect of food security as it involves the storage, processing, transport, packaging, and marketing of food. We have seen many a times unlawful storage of food grains and vegetables by the storage managers to increase the market price of the commodities which otherwise created food shortages and in extreme cases famine in the country. Food-chain infrastructure and storage technologies on farms can also impact the amount of food wasted in the distribution process. Developed transport infrastructure in India can help to reduce the market price and improve proper distribution.
But Intensive farming has its other side too as it can damage soil fertility and can increase soil erosion and yield is also thereby affected. Rapid land use changes from agricultural land to urbanization and high fragmentation of agricultural landscapes has seriously affected crop yields. Over the years pressure from multinationals has compelled the farmers to grow more cash crops with usage of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and ground water which in turn has decreased the land for grains and vegetables. The green revolution popularized the usage of high yielding varieties (hybridized) which has resulted in controllable or uncontrollable cross pollination to create a state of genetic pollution. This genetic pollution is the main cause of loosing many indigenous varieties to create genetic erosion.
The Parliament of India has passed the National Food Security Act, 2013 which aims to provide food grains in subsidised rate to two thirds of India’s population. The Trade Facilitation Agreement by WTO states that the National Food Security Act, 2013 of India will disrupt the International trade as it allows subsidy of more than 10%. But the Indian Government has taken a firm stand that it cannot risk its national security in exchange of international agreement and with this bold decision India told the world that it cannot agree to a agreement which aims to maximize the developed country’s interests.